Bob Spear (1920-2014)

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Consider everything you know about the past half-century of birdwatching in Vermont. Long before your field guides and checklists, before bird apps and atlases, before nature centers and eBird, before VINS and VCE, there was Bob Spear.

On the long, green path of Vermont’s conservation movement you will find authors and intellectuals, farmers and environmentalists, men with outsized legacies that remain with us in the wild even though the conservationists themselves are now gone: George Perkins Marsh, Zadock Thompson, James P. Taylor, and Hub Vogelmann, to name a few.

Now another great conservationist has passed. Bob Spear, bird carver, educator, and soft-spoken field naturalist, died yesterday, October 19, 2014, in the company of his friends, family and, although we weren’t there with him, the community of people whose lives he touched and changed.

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The 2014 Snow Goose Scoop

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The snows of autumn begin.

Snow geese are once again moving through Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison, Vermont. Follow the migration on my new page: THE 2014 SNOW GOOSE SCOOP.

Get the latest reports on goose counts. Read about why snow geese no longer gather in the numbers we enjoyed during the 1980s and 1990s. You’ll also find range maps, articles, and other resources on the biology and ecology of snow geese.

You’ll even find help identifying the rare Ross’s Goose among the honking blizzard of white.

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Sunrise Now

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Sunrise minutes ago from my office in downtown Montpelier, Vermont.

That's the Trinity United Methodist Church in the foreground and the First Baptist Church of Montpelier in the background. I was standing near the Unitarian Church.

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The Second Sunrise: A Final Monhegan Migration Report

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He flashed yellow like an autumn sugar maple. When he launched from the meadow, the sun rose a second time over Monhegan Island. And as we left the island Monday for a wild boat ride, this star of fall migration – a young male Yellow-headed Blackbird – was still flying sorties and issuing his kuh-duck flight calls to the departing birdwatchers.

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Hello, Yellow

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A Yellow-headed Blackbird has been traversing the skies over Monhegan Island, Maine, for the past couple of days. This westerner heads east now and then, more commonly reaching the Midwest. Occasionally one or two will land here on this small rock off Maine's midcoast.

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Dawn and Rare Birds

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SUNRISE THIS MORNING is better than any warbler on Monhegan Island. Well, except for yesterday, when I found a Connecticut Warbler on the Burnt Head trail. Other big news from a flight of birds on Wednesday was one or more Yellow-headed Blackbirds, first discovered by Steve and Jane Mirick.

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The Fog of Birding

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In the rain, wind and fog on Monhegan Island today, we studied the finer points of common birds. When the winds blow strong from the south, as they have the past two days, migrating songbirds do not come to Monhegan. No worries among the group of amiable birders I am now guiding here. We're enjoying whatever flies across our path.

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A Monhegan Fallout

Immature Peregrine Falcon / © Bryan Pfeiffer

Today on Monhegan Island the winds blew fair with birds. Peregrine Falcons gave chase and took life. In the lilacs near the Rope Shed a Nashville Warbler cavorted with a Tennessee Warbler. A flock of a dozen Baltimore Orioles paraded around the village.

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The Spineless on Monhegan

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), as you mostly know it.

On north winds Wednesday morning the songbirds came to Monhegan – and then they left. Our gentle rain of migrants included newly arrived Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-winged Warbler (thanks to Tony Vazzano) and Cerulean Warbler, an extraordinary bird for the island. Blue Grosbeak, Lark Sparrow and Clay-colored Sparrow, the usual Monhegan oddballs, entertained the besotted birders.

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Opening Day

Ocean Sunfish / © Bryan Pfeiffer

To borrow an entire chapter from William Faulkner: My favorite is a fish. Even though we saw more Cape May Warblers than Yellow rumped Warblers; even though Northern Gannets are plunge-diving everywhere offshore; even though Philadelphia Vireos present themselves with such elegance; even though Philadelphia Vireos make me swoon and happy; even though a Sharp-shinned Hawk chased a Belted Kingfisher by our deck during brunch; and even though we watched a couple of Minke Whales drift past Black Head; my favorite encounter during our first day with fall migrants on Monhegan Island, Maine, was the Ocean Sunfish off White Head.

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